DORSET'S doctors sign an average of 34 fit notes every day according to the latest NHS figures. But that could all soon change, thanks to a new government initiative.

GPs working in the NHS Dorset CCG issued a total of 12,261 notes between July 2017 and June this year.

Now the rules are to be changed to allow other health workers to sign people off sick, reducing the workload faced by doctors.

The Department for Work and Pensions says it will legislate to allow other health professionals to certify people as unable to work.

The move has been welcomed by doctors' leaders, who say it will ease the pressure on GPs.

People in work need a fit note, previously called a sick note, if they are off work for more than seven days. Up to that point they can self-certify that they are unwell.

Across England, 5.7 million fit notes were handed out over the 12 months to the end of June.

A Department of Work and Pensions spokesperson said: "We want to reduce the burden on GPs and that’s why we intend to legislate for the extension of fit note certification to other healthcare professionals. We will work with the NHS on this.”

In Dorset, the average monthly rate of fit notes was 1,916 per 100,000 working age people registered with a GP. The highest rate was 3,695 in Halton, Cheshire. The lowest rate was 851 in Richmond, London.

The most common reasons that doctors signed people off work were mental and behavioural disorders, particularly stress, and muscoskeletal conditions, such as back problems.

Of the 12,261 notes signed over the 12 months in Dorset, 989 were issued for mental health issues and 565 for back problems.

The number of fit notes signed in Dorset from July 2017 to June this year is down on the previous 12 months, but this may be due, in part, to under-reporting in February caused by technical issues in gathering the data.